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WAR CHILD ‘HEROES’: NEW vs OLD, part 2: The Hold Steady

Published: Tue February 10, 2009  News Feed

‘War Child: Heroes’ is the ultimate covers album: an unprecedented coming together of music’s greatest ever legends and today’s best artists in support of a great cause.

The album concept sees the biggest heroes in music history select a personal favourite track from their own back catalogue, and nominate an act from the next generation to create a modern reworking of that classic song.

Legends supporting the album include: Sir Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, The Clash and U2. Modern artists recording include: Duffy, Scissor Sisters, Elbow, Beck, Rufus Wainwright and Lily Allen.

The album will be released in February 16 2009 on Parlophone. All profits will aid the real heroes: children affected by the brutalities of war.
Preorder now: www.warchild.org.uk/heroes/buy

All this week we look at the key instruments used by the artists in both the original classic tracks and the modern reworkings put together by today’s acts. Plus we talk to the acts involved about the album.

Today: The Hold Steady cover "Atlantic City"

An anthemic favourite from Bruce’s live set, this was an acoustic track when first released in 1982 on the album Nebraska. Released as a single in the UK and some other European countries, but not in the U.S, ‘Atlantic City’, this was the first Springsteen song to be made into a video.

His song tells the story of a Philadelphia Mob hit, orchestrated by Nicky Scarfo, who took over the Philly boys so he could control the new Atlantic City gambling rackets. He made such a mess of things that he and most of his crew were either murdered or incarcerated within a few years.

“People deserve truth, they deserve honesty and the best music is there to provide you something to face the world with.”

So says Bruce Springsteen. For nearly four decades he has been a rock & roll working-class hero: The Boss.

From huge, commercially accessible rock or personal, somber, more folk-oriented work, his records have spoken directly to millions, whether recognising the plights of millions in America’s small-town heartland or voicing a nation’s response to 9/11.

His musical eloquence has earned both a stash of top awards (including eighteen Grammy Awards and an Academy Award) along with a notoriously dedicated and devoted global fan base. His most famous albums, 'Born to Run' and 'Born in the U.S.A.' are among the biggest selling of all time, and he has sold over 120 million albums worldwide.

But much of his iconic status stems from his intense and rousing live performances with The E Street band.

Springsteen has long had the deserving nickname "The Boss", a moniker he was initially reported to hate. But now even he seems to have come to terms with.

The Hold Steady singer Craig Finn:

The Hold Steady might have been considered “the best bar band in America” by some, but the Brooklyn-based band’s intricate and layered songwriting seems to call for much bigger venues at this point. On its 4th studio album Stay Positive, the band dabbles in everything from harpsichords to talk boxes, resulting in a new style or sound with each track. There have also been comparisons to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street (thanks to keyboardist Franz Nicolay’s heavy presence), so the choice of "Atlantic City" seems perfect for them.

“We’ve been compared to Bruce Springsteen a lot and he is a hero to all of us. It’s flattering that he’d think of us given the choice. We hope our version of the song conveys the respect we have for him as an artist. We’d already thought about covering 'Atlantic City', we kind of had an arrangement worked up so it was great to record that. It’s a pretty fun song and I’m pretty happy with our version of it”.

Guitarist Tad Kubler admits that he and his bandmates share a great respect for Springsteen, but there are a few artists that had a greater impact on him as a player. When he talked with Ultimate-Guitar writer Amy Kelly recently, he humorously explained that many of his musical decisions are guided by one philosophical question: “What would Jimmy Page do?”

Like Springsteen, Finn prefers Fender Esquire guitars, as well as a Gibson Melody Maker.

Kubler, on the other hand, uses different Gibsons (Les Paul, LP Junior, ES-335) and his pedalboard  is seen below (from amateurchemist blog):

The Hold Steady pedalboard

Apart from a T-Rex delay, Kubler goes for Boss: TU-2 Tuner, Boss GE-7 Equalizer for scorching solos, BD-2 Blues Driver, RV-3 Digital Reverb/ Delay, OC-2 Octaver, TR-2 Tremolo, Hi-Band Flanger, DD-6 Delay.

Amongst the amps the band uses: Fender Twin Reverb, Epiphone Blues Custom and a Blackstar Artisan 30-watt combo.

For recordings, the band likes to use analogue gear such as Studer 24-track, and a Neve 8088 board.

View The Hold Steady artist page at Dolphin

Watch: Bruce Springsteen, "Atlantic City"

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You can pre-order the album now, from HMV:

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